WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The head of the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbirds, an elite military demonstration squadron, was removed because of a loss of confidence in his leadership, the military said on Wednesday.
The Air Force said Lieutenant Colonel Jason Heard had led the team well, but there was a loss of “confidence in his leadership and risk management style.”
In a separate statement, Major Ray Geoffroy, a spokesman for the Thunderbirds, said Heard had not been removed because of a recent crash.
A recent investigation found that a June crash involving a Thunderbird F-16 was caused by the aircraft traveling too fast and not having enough distance to stop on a wet runway. The pilot was injured.
“While he led a highly successful 2017 show season featuring 72 demonstrations over 39 show sites, concerns arose that his approach to leading the team was resulting in increased risk within the demonstration which eroded the team dynamic,” Geoffroy said.
“The team dynamic in the Thunderbirds is absolutely unique… As a result, absolute trust and teamwork in both our professional and personal dynamics are foundational to our mission,” he added.
Reporting by Idrees AliEditing by Sandra Maler